AN OVERBROAD PATENT ON USER INTERFACE - This patent from RIM claims the idea of... doubletap spacebar to insert periods and capitalize! 10 minutes of your time can help narrow US patent applications before they become patents. Follow @askpatents on twitter to help.

US Patent No. 6,396,482 - Hand-held electronic device with a keyboard optimized for use with the thumbs

Looking for prior art related to claim 16:

A method of inputting characters into a mobile device having a keyboard and a display, the keyboard including a plurality of character keys and a space bar, the method comprising the steps of:

  • (A) inputting a first set of characters into the mobile device using the keyboard, wherein the first set of characters comprise a first sentence;
  • (B) selecting the space bar of the keyboard twice in succession and (1) displaying a period symbol (.) after the first sentence, and (2) instructing the mobile device to capitalize the next character input using the keyboard; and
  • (C) inputting a second set of characters into the mobile device using the keyboard, wherein the second set of characters comprise a second sentence, and wherein the first character in the second set of characters is automatically capitalized by the mobile device.

Note the patent has a filing date of Jun 25, 1999, so any relevant art must have been published before this date. This patent has been assigned to RIM.

Basically, this claim is directed to the familiar feature on modern smartphones of double tapping the spacebar at the end of a sentence to automatically insert a period. Additionally, the next character typed will be automatically capitalized.

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  • 1
    The headline "insert period and space" does not describe the same output as claim 16(B), ~"insert period and capitalize next character". Did I miss something or should the headline be changed? Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 9:22
  • Yes, you are correct @RaphaelWimmer. Thanks for the help. I'll try and update the title. The space requirement is actually part of a related case, US Pub. No. 2012/0032889.
    – Hal
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 14:26

8 Answers 8


At a minimum, I'd think they do not have a valid claim to the auto capitalization.

I haven't found anything on the auto-insertion of the period, but the claim for autocapitalization documented in claims 16(B)2, which is getting ready to capitalize the next string, and 16(C), which describes actually doing so, appears to have prior art:

The Apple Newton, which was launched in developed in 1987 and discontinued in 1998, included autocapitalization of sentences, as documented here:

enter image description here

Now, this auto-capitalization was not triggered by a double space; it appears to have been triggered by the insertion of a period. But it seems that one could easily conclude that once there's art for a period-triggered capitalization, adding capitalization after a double-space triggered period isn't novel - the same period is triggering it, and only the way the period was generated seems new.

EDIT: And... see @NickHildebrant's answer here which appears to have found prior art for a program recognizing a sentence end based on a double space. I wonder if anyone's currently paying BlackBerry to license this one - might be in their interest to file a post-grant challenge...

  • FYI, I found prior art for ending a sentence on two spaces. The missing piece to your prior art here. Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 22:18
  • @NickHildebrant, awesome. Just upvoted yours...
    – Jaydles
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 22:23

Emacs has a feature for that (sentence-end-double-space). I checked out the sources from 1994 and this option was in fact there at that time.

What happens when two spaces are encountered is configurable by the user, a period is not specified. It is however obvious by the name of the option that it signifies that the sentence has ended.

From the EMACS manual

If the value is nil, the default, then Emacs computes sentence ends according to various criteria such as the value of sentence-end-double-space.

So here is prior art for ending a sentence when two spaces are encountered, and the reference from @Jaydles shows that there is prior art for what happens when a sentence is started. This patent is just a combination of these two features.

  • Nick, this is great; I linked my answer to yours. One question - can you find anything to confirm when emacs first had that feature? The documentation you linked to has copy-writes over a long range, and the art would have to precede 1999 to be relevant.
    – Jaydles
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 14:21
  • @Jaydles, I was told by an emacs developer in #emacs on IRC that the feature was added in 1994. I cloned the source code from the git repository and went back to the last commit before 1995-01-01 and the feature was there. Finding the exact date those lines of code were added is beyond my git skills, but I did verify it was sometime in 1994 or earlier. Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 15:14
  • @Jaydles: 1994-02-03 good excuse to learn something new i guess :) Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 15:35

Even if it's a recent thing SwiftKey keyboard on Android does that. Double tap on the spacebar will insert a period and next word will be capitalized. See FAQ here

  • Swiftkey was founded in 2008. The patent is from 1999. Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 14:05

Hitting the spacebar twice in succession to do something other than print 2 spaces was used in 1996 in a Frontier Elite flight plan generator:




Version release date: 08-28-96 Author: Mic J. Healey [email protected]

The Title Screen comes on for about 5 seconds and then the program starts. If you would like to express past the title screen you can do so by hitting the Space Bar. Please don't use the Enter Key as this will be taken by the basic program later as a data input for the Code Generation Number; the Enter Key having a value of zero. However, if you want radom code sequence 0, knock yourself. Pressing the space bar twice quickly, expresses the loop through the title screen.


Wordperfect back in the day on 80x24 DOS used to do this I think.

I also remember some old 1980s word processors on the apple II that used to behave this way.

Need to find some references..

  • I've just dug around a bit and managed to resurrect a DOS machine with WordPerfect 5.1+ on it. It's a fresh installation. By default, it doesn't have this behaviour, although it might be an option buried somewhere. Can you remember how to turn it on by any chance?
    – Chromatix
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 18:44

The Nokia telephones as least as far back as 1995 had this feature while texting. Double-pressing the space character would insert a period and capitalize the first letter of the next word.

This was a feature of the T9 predictive text input system, as documented here in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T9_(predictive_text)

  • Can you give a specific model number? My 3310 is too new to serve as prior art, and even that only has auto-capitalisation, not auto-fullstop.
    – Chromatix
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 22:26

The Input Method Editor (IME) for the Japanese language in Microsoft Windows available in, as far as I know, Microsoft Windows 2000 onwards transforms characters entered in Hiragana into Kanji when the space bar is pressed once (i.e.) type Hiragana characters, press the space bar and you get Kanji.

Anyone skilled in the art ......

  • Other than hitting a space bar doing something other than just spacing, this seems to have little in common with the claims.
    – George White
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 19:09

A double space has historically been used as a way to indicate the end of a sentence, and is not a novel new user input method: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentence_spacing

This was used in both manual typesetting and typewriters. I still type that way.

A pair of consecutive spaces has no other grammatical meaning in the English language (common or not, that I know of). Therefore, if a user types two spaces in a row, it is nothing more than spelling/grammar correction if the software responds by adding the missing period and capitalizing the following word.

Whether the software is also set to adapt to a single-space convention by removing the extra space is an issue of writing style correction, no different than if a word processor is set to correct a state abbreviation from N.Y. to NY.

EDIT: Unfortunately, this website refuses to display my double spaces. I swear they are here.

  • The patent isn't about putting two space after a period. It's about using double-space to CAUSE end of sentence to be inserted. Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 14:07
  • Obviously (as I already mentioned, it removes the extra space), but they can't claim a new input method based on keystrokes which were already being performed. Altering the final text based on existing keystrokes is correction, not a new input method. Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 14:22

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